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Pirates attack three ships off Indonesia

Written by: Staff

JAKARTA, July 5 (Reuters) Pirates have attacked three ships, including two U N-chartered vessels and a Japanese bulk carrier, in Indonesian waters around the Malacca Strait in recent days, maritime and police officials said today.

Two attacks occured on ships carrying relief material to tsunami-stricken Aceh province at the weekend, while a Japanese bulk carrier was targeted on Monday, Noel Choong, head of the piracy reporting centre of the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur, told Reuters.

In at least one of the weekend attacks, raiders were armed with AK-47 rifles, grenades and pistols.

''That area has been a piracy hot spot in the past, so we hope it is not the start of a series of attacks and we are monitoring the situation at the moment,'' Choong said.

Jodi Heryadi, a spokesman for Aceh police, said that in one of the weekend attacks the pirates, who were in fishing boats, took the crew's wallets, cellphones, shoes and clothes.

''They claimed they were officers who wanted to check to ship'', he added, noting the attacked ship's name was the Pacific Spirit and the captain was British.

The Japanese vessel, which was 26,989 tonnes in size, was attacked on Monday night but its crew fended off the attackers with fire hoses, Choong said.

The attacks took to six the total number of piracy incidents in the Malacca Strait this year, Choong said.

''The first three attacks this year were in April, mainly on fishing boats, so we believe that was an isolated case,'' he said.

''But for these three, we are more concerned because these are larger vessels. And heavily-armed like this and also targeting the Japanese bulk carrier -- so we are more concerned'', he added, ''We have already informed the Indonesian authorities and we hope they will take necessary action to contain the problem.'' REUTERS CH HT1725

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